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Setbacks, comebacks and backtracks

Northern 2, Canterbury United Pride 2
North Harbour Stadium, Auckland, October 29 2017

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Northern got a taste of their own medicine from seven days prior in this week’s top of the table National Women’s League clash at North Harbour Stadium, becoming the latest team to fall prey to the two goal lead curse. But a draw was still a good result for them against a star studded Canterbury United side – especially considering the home team were missing several key pieces of the jigsaw.

The home side’s already young charges had to do without the likes of comparatively experienced hands such as Saskia Vosper, Liz Savage and Sam Tawharu due to injury in addition to another key player who was running the Auckland Marathon. I must say the latter irks me a little bit. I don’t blame the player, instead I feel it’s somewhat symptomatic of a wider problem.

This is supposed to be a “National League” in capital letters – it should be the pinnacle of the domestic women’s calendar. That an important player would rather be doing a glorified fun run than play in the “National Women’s League” raises doubts about how seriously people are taking this competiton. It’s not isolated to one player in one round either. There are also a number voting with their feet and sitting the whole thing out altogether.

Again, this isn’t an attack on the players concerned. The league has to grow in stature to be something players don’t want to miss for anything.

Will this issue evaporate when the competition moves to two rounds and if/when it ever gets marketing that matches its lofty title? I hope so. With any luck when it looks and feels like a serious national competition akin to the ISPS Handa Premiership the players will treat it as such.

Anyway, rant over. On to the game.

As previously admitted, I was picking Northern to finish lower mid-table before the competition began. But of course I have been wrong about a lot of pretty fundamental truths lately.

I thought Jacinda would struggle as Labour leader, Winston would choose National, Patrick Barnes was one of a kind and Roma was better than Napoli – ok, on that last one I was more deluded than wrong…

And once again I was shown up a bit in this one, setting up my store down the end the Pride were attacking. I felt sure this would be where most of the great photo taking opportunities would be occurring, and I was right to an extent. There were a few there, with Canterbury making most of the early running and hitting the woodwork twice…

But then, against the run of play, Malia Steinmetz banged home the first goal of the game at the far end, and Cara Lonergan doubled the advantage for the home side – who were playing into a stiff breeze to boot – shortly before half time.

It all came a bit unstuck for Northern in a brief spell of the second half. Canterbury scored both sides of the hour mark – firstly courtesy of a stunning Annalie Longo free kick and then a goal bludgeoned home by Gabrielle Rennie albeit with a hint of offside about it.

There were more chances for Canterbury after that but a combination of yet more woodwork and acrobatics from Northern keeper Anna Leat earned her side a share of the spoils.

So that’s three weeks in a row that I have underestimated Northern. It’s probably time to accept that they are genuine title contenders! I don’t mind too much though – an Auckland semi and/or final would suit me just fine!

With WaiBOP and Southern drawing 0-0 in Dunedin, neither of them are now likely to challenge for the top three from here. That leaves Northern, Auckland (bye this week), Capital (who overcame Central 1-0 on Saturday) and Canterbury fighting to see which one of them misses out.

No other predictions from me.

Except hopefully me writing WaiBOP off completely will have the desired effect…

Categories: NZ Women's National League

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: https://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/

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